Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bah to the weatherman

The Friday storm appears to be dead. We got a little snow yesterday and we'll get a little snow today, but no major storms are out there right now. Tomorrow is going to be windy and very cold. Skiing conditions will be icy. I'll sharpen my skis first thing when I get to the mountain. I've already suggested that my family just skip the ski day tomorrow.

We're having family come over to watch the Rose Bowl tomorrow anyway, so it will be best if someone is home by mid-afternoon.

I'll run for an hour tonight before skiing the next four days.

After that, WS training begins for real.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Lifting and snowshoeing

Last night was bench press night in the gym. I hadn't done bench presses in 12 days and I hadn't lifted in 7 days. The gym is open fewer hours during the holidays, and I'm teaching skiing some weekdays, so I've had fewer chances to lift recently.

I tried to bench 170 but couldn't pull it off. It wasn't even close. Last night ended the strength cycle that I've been doing, and here are the results from 6 weeks of strength-based lifting:

Bench Press: 135->165 (22% increase)
Squat: 225->265 (18% increase)
Deadlift: 245->325 (33% increase)

Starting next week, I'll start my training for WS. My weight work will drop to 2x per week, at least until ski season is over. Each weight workout will be a full body workout that is primarily intended to drop bodyfat rather than increasing strength. The recent low volume, higher weight workouts are hard, but I don't sweat very much when I'm doing them. The low reps and long rest periods allow the body to recover a lot between lifts. The next program has many more reps and sets with shorter breaks, and they'll be much tougher workouts that will leave me dripping with sweat.

This morning, I did a 4-mile snowshoe before work, starting in the dark. It was windy and snowing the whole time I was out, but I still had a good time. The trails are in better shape than last week, and the loop took 71 minutes rather than the 83 minutes it took me last week. But, once the footing is even better than it is now, I should do this loop in about 60 minutes. Right now, there is a lot of rotten snow from the recent rains, and I was never sure if the snow would support my foot when it landed today.

I'll do a snowshoe run tomorrow after work, and then I'll be teaching skiing the first four days of the New Year. After that, my WS training kicks off next Monday.

We're getting some snow today - a couple inches maybe. Tomorrow, we're expecting a moderate-sized snowstorm. On Friday through Sunday, though, we are expecting a huge storm, which we'll need to replace the snow lost to the recent rain and warm weather.

Monday, December 29, 2008

What a difference a week makes

A week ago, we were buried in snow. It was crazy how much it had snowed in a 5-day period. Then, it rained hard on Christmas Eve. It rained really hard on Saturday. Yesterday, the temperature was well into the 50s and we got hit hard by rain and wind. A promising ski season is on the ropes right now.

We have a chance for snow tonight (small amount), snow on Wednesday (small to moderate amount), and Friday is the key. Right now, Friday looks like the start of a massive storm that could last 48 hours. If that storm hits just right, skiing in January could be saved.

This week, I'll work out on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, before teaching skiing from Thursday through Sunday. On the 5th of January, I start my WS training. Weightlifting will drop from 3x per week to 2x and I'll do full body workouts rather than body part workouts for strength. I'll start doing double workouts again - either running and lifting on the same day or running twice per day. Most runs will be limited to one hour, but by late in the month, I'll plan to do my first 20 miler of the year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays!

(For some technical reason that I'm sure I should understand, the photo above is being cropped in my browser. The entire photo can be seen by clicking on it, as if anyone wants a full-size shot of my smiling mug.)

Sunday afternoon, while my ski group was having a hot chocolate break, I took a quick trip to the men's room. When I returned, my ski helmet had been sabotaged by the girls in my group. The motto of the Professional Ski Instructors of America is "Safety, Fun, Learning". I try to remember this every day that I teach, and after making sure that everyone is as safe as possible, I work very hard to ensure that the students have fun. As ridiculous as it looked, the helmet modification didn't violate any safety considerations, and the girls desperately wanted me to wear it. So I did. We skied under a lift on our last run and people on the chairlift were hooting and yelling at me the entire way down. The girls loved it. My boss loved it and snapped the photo above.

Last night, I did the last squat workout in my current lifting cycle. My primary goal was a squat of 265 pounds, which I nailed pretty easily. I decided to try 275 and that didn't go so well. Let's just say that there's a reason people do squats inside a device called a squat rack. For the first time ever, I completely failed on a squat, and I had to let the safety bars catch the weight and then I wriggled out from underneath the bar. Without the safety bars, I could have been hurt very badly, which is why I use the rack. If I'm doing bench presses in an empty gym, I'll do them inside a squat rack as well, so I avoid earning a posthumous Darwin Award for being suffocated by a barbell that's crushing my neck.

This morning, I headed out for a pre-dawn snowshoe run. I quickly discovered that the groomers hadn't groomed very many of the trails I normally use and wind had filled some of the groomed trails with snow. My 4 mile loop, which is very hilly, normally takes me 60 minutes when the trails are in good shape. This morning, it took 83 minutes. Late in the "run", I discovered that a key trail to get back home hadn't been groomed at all. I had the choice of adding a couple miles on groomed trails or breaking untouched snow. I knew I'd be late for work if I added the miles, so I took the ungroomed trails instead. I had to go uphill for almost a mile in snow that went above my knees. If I hadn't been wearing snowshoes, I might have been sinking waist deep at spots. It was a hard effort, but a lot of fun. I was late for work anyway, so neither option was a good one.

Right now, it's snowing lightly outside, but that snow will change to rain later today. After midnight, it will get cold again and the rain will change back to snow. So, we're going to have a layer of new snow, topped by rain which will freeze solid late tonight, topped by more snow. I'm planning another snowshoe outing tomorrow, but the trails might be in even worse shape than today.

Tonight, when I get home from work, I'm going to spend some time raking the snow off my roof. A snow rake isn't something many people own, but here in VT, they are important to prevent roof collapses. Right now, I have about 2 feet of fluffy snow on my roof, but once it starts raining, that snow will absorb the rain and the total weight of snow and ice on the roof will increase quickly. A roof rake will let me remove snow from the roof to reduce the risk of a very dangerous roof collapse. Every winter in Vermont, some barns collapse and cattle are killed when this happens. It's rarer that a home roof collapses, but it's better to be safe than sorry.

Happy Holidays to everyone out there.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Yesterday's "workout"

I spent 45 minutes before work and then another hour-plus after work clearing snow and ice from my driveway, deck, and mailbox. My wife is out skiing today, so I've got to take care of getting the kids home from school, but I should still be able to sneak in a gym workout while the kids do their homework.

The gym is closed the next two days, so I'll probably snowshoe run both of those days. Christmas morning, I'll probably get out for 90 minutes or more, and with the dogs if it's not too cold for them.

Our next two storms are going to be partially rain, but by the end of next week, it looks like we'll be back to a cold, snowy weather pattern. The more snow, the better, for now at least.

Today, a friend asked me to pace at Umstead in the spring, so my first truly long run of next year is likely to be 50 miles (4 loops) of the Umstead course. That also means I'll be at Umstead to encourage the runner I paced at Massanutten this year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

This is my car!

If I hadn't hit the car with snow from the snowblower, you wouldn't even be able to tell what color it is. We have had 3 significant snowstorms since Wednesday, and yesterday's storm was incredible - 17" of light, fluffy snow at my house. My car was cleaned off on Friday evening, so the snow on the car is mostly from the last storm. The ski mountain has gotten 32" of fluff since Friday and the skiing is amazing.

But right now, between my workouts and skiing and shoveling snow and running the snowblower, I feel like I've been worked over. I hurt my right wrist in a skiing all a couple weeks ago. It isn't really getting better and it was sore all weekend. Last night, I tripped in our house, playing games with my dog, and I fell on that same wrist. I managed to bruise my right hand and my right foot as I fell. I'm simply tired right now.

So, except for the snow removal work, today will be a rest day. But, considering that I've already spent at least 45 minutes moving snow this morning and I'll do that much more tonight, it's not going to be much of a rest day.

Regretfully, our next two storms, due on Wednesday and Saturday, will include mixed precipitation. Hopefully the mountain will not have its snowpack damaged too much, but we'll see.

This past weekend, with a Friday storm and Sunday storm making travel difficult, we didn't have a lot of people at the mountain, so the skiing was even better than expected - lots of fluffy untracked lines. Only two of the girls in my ski group showed up, so I taught them a few things that should help them in bumps and in the trees, and then we mostly skied whereever they wanted to ski. It was a great weekend.

Oh yeah, Friday night I set a new deadlift PR at 325 pounds.

I'm tired and sore everywhere. I'm getting old, I suppose.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow running at night

Yesterday, after work, I headed to the bike path in Burlington, a beautiful path along the shore of Lake Champlain. I had snowshoes and YakTrax with me, and decided to run with the latter. I took two lights with me, because you never know when the batteries will go in a light (and the batteries did die in my handheld light by the end of the run). It was in the high 20s, fairly calm, and beautiful.

The first mile was mostly clear of snow, so I had to run on the side of the path to avoid trashing the YakTrax on pavement. After that, I did the next four miles in about 4" of nice fluffy snow. My time was slow but it was a fun run.

With a storm due later today, a bigger storm due on Sunday, and then another storm on Christmas Eve, it looks like snowshoeing season is definitely upon us. This winter, one of my primary training focuses will be to avoid mileage obsession and simply train. What I really mean by that is that I want to snowshoe run a lot and spend less time on the treadmill. When I let my training log dictate my training, I'll hop on the treadmill for an hour vs. snowshoe run for an hour. I can cover 6+ miles easily in an hour on the treadmill, but I might only do 4 miles of snowshoe running in the same amount of time. But, it's way more fun to be outside, I get to do hills and varying terrain, and I am willing to bet the training effect for ultras is better when I'm on my snowshoes. So, I have to not obsess about miles, and instead focus on fun and quality training.

After today, I'll be teaching skiing 9 of the next 16 days. The gym is closed for a few days each of the next two weeks, so my lifting will be curtailed. So, I should have time for some nice snowshoe runs on my non-skiing days. On Christmas day, after the morning present opening, I think I'll try to do a nice two hours of snowshoeing.

Tonight is a lifting night, focusing on deadlifts. My primary goal will be to lift 325 pounds in my single rep 4th set.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

More on Lifting

I've been writing a lot more about lifting recently than about running. It's simply my off-season from running, so most of my runs are short and easy.

Last night, my lifting focused on bench presses. I didn't make my first attempt at 165, but I made my second attempt. On the first attempt, my foot slipped away from the bench and the bar started to tilt, so my spotter grabbed it. I've made good progress on bench presses recently, but I'm still well behind Barack Obama's reported 200 pound capability. On the first of the year, I'll stop focusing on max lifts, so I have to get them now while I can.

Tonight will be an easy hour run on the bike path beside Lake Champlain. I'm probably going to run in Yaktrax, given that the bike path is partially packed snow on top of ice. I have my snowshoes with me as well, in case it's really snowy.

Tomorrow's storm looks like it will be mostly south of us, so the 6-12 forecast has been changed significantly. Now, we're talking about 2-4 instead. Sunday's storm is still looking promising though.

After my run tonight, I think I'm finally going to get a Christmas tree. We've never waited so long, but we've been pretty busy this year. The kids were fine with the idea of skipping it, but I'm not quite ready to do that. So, after work, a run, then a little Christmas shopping, and then I need to find a tree.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Easy 6 miler, more weather

I did an easy and uneventful six on the treadmill last night.

Tonight is a gym night, with upper body lifting and some short running intervals. The main goal tonight is to break 160 in the bench press.

We have 4" of new light fluffy snow this morning. It's still snowing. The forecast is for 6-12 more on Friday and 6-12 more on Sunday. Skiing should be pretty sweet this weekend and hopefully through the holiday period, when I'll be working some extra days in the ski school.

Time for a meeting...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Western States

It's never too early to obsess.

In the past 24 hours, I've done the following:

1) Booked a house about 15 miles from Squaw Valley. We'll stay there for the three nights before the race.

2) Booked two hotel rooms in Auburn for Saturday and Sunday.

3) Booked a hotel room in Sacramento for Monday night.

4) Booked tickets from Vermont to Sacramento, flying on the 24th and the 30th of June - a shorter trip than last year.

5) Booked a car.

I guess I should get started with my training.

Gym night and weather

Last night was squat night at the gym. I know that on Mondays, another guy who is very strong, also does squats. Recently, I've been able to get to the gym before him, so that I'm done with my six squat sets before he shows up. Yesterday, we had to stop at the grocery store, pick up my daughter from school, fight some very slippery roads (rain on top of ice), drop my daughter off at home, change clothes, and then head to the gym. I got there just as the other guy got there.

I was in the squat rack first, but offered to share with him. He was hesitant until I explained that my six sets would take 20+ minutes from start to finish. After that, we compromised on a bar setting (he's shorter than I am and lifts heavier, so he needs to rack the weight lower) and we got to work.

I warmed up at 45, 95, and 135. Then, I did a set of 6 at 185. He upped the weight to 225 for his warm-up set! That was perfect for me, as my next set was a single rep at 225. Then, he went to 3 wheels - 315 - for a set. Back to me, and I did six reps at 195. Then, he did a single rep with 4 wheels - 405. He struggled a bit, even though I've seen him do reps at that weight before. It was great to watch him, because his form is so perfect. He's a former competitive powerlifter (525 best squat, 550 deadlift, 425 bench) who tore his rotator cuff doing bench presses a couple years ago. He's on the comeback trail now.

Next, I had my single rep attempt at 255 for a new PR. I was shaking on the way back up and the other guy, Mike, encouraged me the whole way. I nailed it and while we changed the weights for his next set, he gave me some pointers on form. He told me that "you have to look up to get up" and that I'd had my head down. I know better, but I'd slipped into a bad habit. I focused on my head position for the final two sets and they went much better.

Next, Mike did a single rep at 425 and he was done. I then did 12 reps at 175 and then 16 reps at 155.

After that, I had Bulgarian split squats and step-ups in a superset. My doctor was on the rowing machine right beside me and he yelled (sort of) at me during my first set of step-ups to not be using my back foot to push off. It's so hard to not do that. Sometimes, I think the only cure is to do them in reverse and do single leg squats from a bench - drop one foot to the floor - just touching it and then return to the top. But, those are even tougher than step-ups - a very demanding exercise. On the second and third set of step-ups, I did bodyweight only and my form was better.

As an aside, my doctor is in pretty good shape these days and he gives me some of the credit for that. After I came to work here at the hospital, we got to know each other better than when I'd only been a patient of his. He started to tell me that he'd taken up running on occasion, and I was part of the reason. About a year ago or so, he told me that he'd done his first ever 10 miler and he was very proud about that. He said that he knew a 10 miler was nothing for me, but I cut him short a bit. I told him that I remember the first time I ran 10 miles very clearly because it was a milestone event to go that far. I told him it was great progress and that comparing what he's doing to the stupid stuff I do makes no sense. So, in the past couple years, he's dropped some excess weight and gotten stronger. He was looking strong on the rowing machine last night. I think that all of us who exercise regularly have the ability to positively influence others to get off their butts. I know that I've done that with my own family and some friends, which makes me feel that my exercise isn't as purely self-centered as it seems to be at times.

Tonight, I'll run easily for an hour before I go to a Christmas concert that my daughter is in. It's a band and chorus concert and she's in both, so she'll have a busy night between singing and playing the flute.

After yesterday's warm temperatures and rain, our snowpack is down significantly. But, the next few days look very promising. It's supposed to start snowing just after midnight tonight and the forecast is calling for 3"-8" of snow by tomorrow night. Then, another storm will hit Friday, although this one has the potential for mixed precipitation just like last Friday. Even worse, places to the south that got hit so hard by ice last Friday may see a repeat on a smaller scale. Then, we are due for another snowstorm on Sunday as well. By the end of Sunday's storm, we should have about 18" of new snow on the valley floors and more in the mountains. After yesterday, the ski resorts really need that snow for the upcoming Christmas holiday period.

People who actually read this blog (and Site Meter tells me there are a few of you out there) will notice that I'm obsessed with weather this time of year. All people who love skiing become obsessed that way once the ski season starts. It's not just me.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Girls, Girls, Girls

This ski season may be the death of me.

We have three levels of seasonal programs for children where I work. We have a lower-end half-day program for the younger kids. We have an upper-end program for the really fast and aggressive skiers. That program draws lots of boys. Our mid-level program is where I teach. I'm one of the "leads" for that program, so I basically act as a supervisor and a trainer for my co-workers, but I'm certainly not the real boss. One of the additional jobs I do is as a lead is assign children to their coaches. We start with our returning skiers, who we know well, and put them with coaches. Then, we mostly put the new children into groups based on age. After that, we watch them ski and the first few weekends are full of changes as we move people to different coaches, based on ability levels. By the first of the year, everything settles down, and we have 3 months left to really coach a group with a fixed membership.

Because many boys go into the advanced program, we have more girls than boys in the program where I work. I think we have over 60% girls. Last year, we had one group of all boys (our most advanced group) and two groups that were all girls. Each of those 3 groups was led by a coach of the same sex as the students. When I put the groups together this year, it was a goal to have all groups be integrated - boys and girls. My initial group was 7 girls and 3 boys. But, for one reason or another, all 3 boys have transferred to another group, and I now have 7 girls, including my own daughter.

Yesterday, at the end of the day, I talked to a parent who has twin daughters in the program. The twins are neighbors (in Massachusetts) with one of the girls in my group and the twins are friends with some other girls in my group. I got the impression that the parent isn't completely satisfied wtih something about his daughters' current group, so he asked about moving them to my group. I skied with one of his daughters for a while yesterday and she'd be a perfect fit. So, I'm likely to have two new girls in the next week or so.

So, it's looking like I'll coach 9 girls, ages 8-10, for the entire ski season. The girls are really great - they get along very well and each of them seems to be bonding well with at least one other child in the group. One returning girl from last year - my youngest skier - would always insist on riding with me when we rode a double chairlift last year. This weekend, she would just ignore me to ride with her new best friend on the double. My daughter has instantly fallen in with another girl. I think it's going to be fun.

But, 9 girls of that age have a huge critical mass of energy. I can ski circles around every one of them, and I have a lot to teach them. But, their energy may still be the death of me. This is my 8th year of teaching skiing, and my 7th year teaching in the seasonal program. This is likely to be my most challenging year ever. It may also turn out to be the most fun as well.

I am glad for the recognition I'm getting from parents. I've been teaching long enough and I'm well known that parents are trying to get their children into my group. It's tougher for the less experienced instructors, especially those with no prior teaching experience. No matter how skilled they are as skiers, parents who have been skiing at the mountain for years are wary of new faces and prefer their children to be with the more established coaches. I survived those first few years of being the new guy, and I understand how it feels to have parents prefer other coaches. One of the benefits of being more experienced is that the experienced coaches tend to draw the experienced students. This allows me to take my group to more interesting terrain to ski.

Did I ever mention that I love skiing and I love teaching skiing to children? This past weekend was hard - lots of logistical work with the group assignments, the coaches, and the parents. But, when I'm out on the mountain, simply teaching or skiing with the students, I tend to smile non-stop. It's the greatest job I have ever had - something I look forward to every single day I get to do it.

Today is a gym day, focusing on squats. I've got two weeks left in my current lifting cycle, and I'm curious if I'll be able to repeat last week two more times. Last week, I increased my PR on the squat, bench press and deadlift. The sum of the three PRs is now 720 pounds. As I've said before, my lifting numbers are paltry for a real lifter, but not bad for a runner who dabbles in lifting. I think that currently, I have the most room for improvement in the squat rack, so I'll work hard on those tonight.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Deadlift PR and Skiing

Last night, I tried to hit "3 wheels" - 315 pounds for my deadlift. My deadlift PR has recently gone from 245 to 305, and I was close to my limit at 305. But, I made my attempt at 315 - just barely. The weight moved steadily but very slowly and it seemed like I'd never reach the top of the lift. But, I made it. I'm guessing that my rate of improvement on deadlifts is about to level off quite dramatically.

As predicted, today was a very cold day, although the winds weren't too bad. I think the high temperature at the base of the mountain was 11F and I refused to even take the kids to the summit. I had 7 of my 8 assigned students show up today and the new students seemed to fit very well with my returning students. We even managed to ski a single-black trail on natural snow in the afternoon - something I hadn't thought we'd even try this weekend.

My group is 7 girls and 1 boy right now and the boy is starting his 7th season skiing with me. He's probably the best skier in the group, but being surrounded by all girls has him a bit freaked out. So, while I'd hate to see him go, we might move him to a higher level group. One thing that's funny is that he's just a few years away from being old enough to realize how good he has it right now.

He's 11 now, and by the time he's 14 or 15, he'll probably look back on that 7:1 ratio and wonder what he didn't like about it.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Treadmill pyramids

The snowstorm was kind of slow to arrive last night, but it was too slick to run outside after work, so I went to the gym with my wife. She was lifting and after I spotted her for some bench press sets, I hopped on the treadmill. I was planning 5-6 miles at an easy pace. But, my legs felt pretty good, so I ended up doing a pyramid workout. I did two minutes each at the following speeds (in mph):


It ended up being 5 miles in 50 minutes, with the 8-9-8 peaks being a decent short interval.

The snow finally started coming down hard late last night, but by 3:15 this morning, it had turned to sleet unexpectedly. By 5:00 this morning, it was raining. I spent an hour snowblowing the driveway and scraping ice off of my wife's car so we could get to work.

From radar, it looks like we're about to get hit with another round of snow shortly, but I'm not sure how much more will fall. We definitely dodged the bullet to some extent, because south and east of us, everything is covered in solid ice. Many people in southern NH have no power, and many roads are completely closed.

Okemo Resort, about a 75 minute drive south of here, reported 2" of "crud" on the mountain. The resorts further north got mostly or all snow, although it's heavier and denser snow than originally forecast.

Tomorrow, I start teaching skiing to children for the season. The forecast high temperature for tomorrow is 14F where I live and it will be colder on the mountain. For some of the kids, who haven't skied at all this season, this will seem brutally cold. So, we'll probably spend as much time indoors as outside tomorrow, just trying to stay warm.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

The "shrine" and yesterday's workout

I changed offices at work a couple months ago. In my old office, I had a bulletin board where I'd displayed a lot of my race numbers from ultras and a few other races, including the two races I've won outright in my life. When I moved offices, the bulletin board didn't come with me, so the numbers came down.

A few weeks ago, the CEO was in my new office and noticed that the numbers were gone. He said that was unacceptable; the numbers needed to be on display. He said he'd find a bulletin board. I forgot all about it. On Monday, when I came to work, I had a new bulletin board on the wall, with a note that read as follows:

"To Damon, the man who runs like a deer reindeer, from Santa"

Apparently, on Sunday, the CEO had been at work and he found one of the plant operations guys and they put up the board for me. The small hospital where I work is a really amazing place at times, and it starts with our CEO, who actually knows and interacts with every employee.

So, the "shrine" is back.

Last night, I started my workout with bench presses and bent over rows, as supersets. My primary goal was to hit 160 on the bench press. After my warm-up, I did 6 reps at 135. Then, 6 rows at 135. Then, I tried 150 for a single-rep bench press and it didn't go too well; my spotter had to help. That was disappointing. But, the 160 attempt was still a chance for redemption. Then, 1 row at 150, 6 bench presses at 145, 6 rows at 155, and then it was time for my attempt at 160 on the bench press.

I read a recommendation recently about the bench press. Basically, you are supposed to concentrate on "pulling" the bar to your chest actively, rather than simply lowering the bar. This movement (if you don't crush your chest) supposedly primes the system somehow for the reverse movement. I tried this on the 160 rep and nailed it almost too easily. I wrapped up that first superset and then moved on to close-grip lat pulldowns, DB presses and lower body Russian twists.

After that, I hopped on the the treadmill for a brief Tabata-like interval workout. Because of the time it takes to speed up and slow down the treadmill, I can't really do 20 seconds hard and 10 seconds easy, times 10. So, after a warm-up, I'd push the pace to sub-6. Once I got there, I'd stay there for 20 seconds and then drop the pace to 12mpm. I'd stay there for 10 seconds, and then return to sub-6 pace. I did 10 repeats of 20 seconds each at sub-6 pace. Then, I did a short cooldown for an intense 2 mile workout.

A big snowstorm is moving in this afternoon and skiing should be great for the next few days. The kids will probably have a snow day tomorrow, and I may have a case of the "powder flu", which would necessitate a trip to the mountain for me and the kids.

I start teaching children this weekend and we should have great snow. The mountains are supposed to get 10"-20" of snow, with 8"-14" at lower elevations.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Easy run and wild weather

I did an easy hour on the treadmill last night. I seem to be gradually adapting to the lifting cycle I'm in right now. The squat night isn't leaving me so sore that I can't run or even walk the next day. Of course, about the time you adapt to a lifting routine, that's when you should change it, so you continue to challenge your body. But, I've got a few more weeks with the current routine before I'll need to switch.

The weather is really crazy right now. Yesterday started super cold. It warmed up gradually and then overnight, temps shot up and rain arrived. I'm hoping the ski mountain didn't get too much rain and it sounds like most of the rain is south of there.

Earlier this morning, it was 51F in Burlington, VT and 32F only 30 miles north of Burlington. The current weather system came in from the southwest, which explains the warmth and moisture. The next system is coming from the northwest, and as the systems collide, we're going to seem the temperature drop rapidly and the rain will change to accumulating snow. Right now, it's 53F where I live and it will probably drop 25 degrees before I leave work.

Then, tomorrow night, the first true Nor'Easter of the year will arrive. Current forecasts are for anywhere from 4" to 10" of snow at lower elevations and more in the mountains. So, desite the current situation of warmth and rain, the ski weekend is still looking promising. And, my kids are excited about the possibility that Friday will be the first snow day of the year.

My son should be hoping that there aren't too many snow days this winter. His Spanish class is planning a week-long visit to Costa Rica in early June. They had two female chaperones (teachers) and desperately needed a male chaperone. The chaperones get most of their trip paid for, and I've agreed to be the male chaperone, as long as we are back home in plenty of time for me to fly to CA for Western States. It will certainly be a bit risky, spending some of my taper time in central America, but it should be a fun trip. I'll certainly get some heat acclimation. Right now, we are planning to return home on June 20th and I'm planning to leave for CA on the 23rd or 24th.

The downside is that I need to start getting vaccines next month, including Hep A and Hep B. We still don't know if we'll need malaria vaccines or not.

Tonight will be weights and Tabata running intervals on the treadmill. I'll take another shot at 160 pounds in my bench press tonight after needing a little help to lift that weight last week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Another lifting PR

I'm really liking the lifting cycle I'm in right now. It's from the New Rules of Lifting book and the focus of the cycle is strength improvement. There are cycles focused on fat loss, cycles focused on getting bigger, and some focused on getting stronger. The program I'm doing right now is called Strength 1, and I'll be halfway done with it by the end of the week.

Last night's workout focused on squats. Last week, I barely set a new squat PR, going from 225 to 230. Last night, I nailed 235 easily in my single-rep 4th set. So, I added an additional set to try 245. I made the weight on my first attempt, but the squat rack where I lift has mirrors right in front of you. Even though I made the lift, I decided I hadn't dropped deep enough into the squat. Rather than resting before trying again, I decided to re-do the rep immediately. I nailed it on the second try. The next few lifts (step-ups and Bulgarian split squats) are always tough after six sets of squats, but that's pretty much the point of the workout. After those lifts, I did some core work and I was done.

Today, we start a period of really wild weather here in VT. It's been below zero the past two nights and yesterday was a cold day all day. Today, the temps will slowly climb to the freezing mark and then it will start to rain. So, the roads may ice up during the evening rush hour. Overnight, the temperature will continue to rise and it's going to rain hard all night. Then, the temperature will reverse and start dropping, and the rain will change back to snow to finish. This will really damage the ski areas, turning snow into ice on the hill. But then on Friday, we're supposed to see a "mini Nor'easter", which may drop 6" at lower elevations and twice that on the mountain. Getting to work on Saturday morning to teach skiing may be tough, but if we have a foot of powder, it will be worth it. Then, by the end of the weekend, the temperatures will start to climb above average again.

Winter in New England, I suppose. I heard from a friend in Reno yesterday that his local mountain, Mt. Rose, still isn't open. And, another good friend constantly laments leaving Utah for Arizona, and he hasn't skied in quite a while. (Plus, he's a 'Bama fan, so he's doubly cursed at the moment.) I've skied 5 days so far and all of them have been fun, so I shouldn't complain.

I'll run easily for an hour tonight, unless the roads are really slick and it's too dangerous to stay out. I've got clothes with me to run on the road or on the treadmill.

Tomorrow, I'm going to do something I said I wouldn't do any more this year - a double workout. It's an arm day at the gym, so I'm going to run in the morning and lift at night.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Friday lifting PR and weekend skiing

I'm starting to settle into my winter routine right now. I work out 7 days per week and I work 7 days per week, although the work and workout on Saturday are one and the same - ski instruction. I fall asleep early every night, it seems.

Friday after work, I went to the gym. The primary focus of Friday's workout was deadlifts. The week before, I'd set a new PR at 275 pounds for the deadlift. The goal of the current 6-week cycle I'm doing is to increase the max weight of each primary lift every week.

I did my warm-up sets and then started by doing 6 reps at 225. Just a few months ago, doing 225 for reps was not something I could even think about doing. Then, a single rep at 275, tying my best from the week before. Then, 6 reps at 245. That was tough, mostly from a grip perspective, but I made it. Then, on the key set, the single rep 4th set, I tried 295. I was amazed at how hard it was, yet the weight moved slowly and steadily to complete the rep. I decided to try an extra single rep at 305 to see how that would go. After a 3 minute rest, I lifted that one as well.

I really want to get to 315 - a weight commonly called "3 wheels". The Olympic bar weighs 45 pounds, and the largest commonly used weight plates are 45 pounds as well. So, if you have one of those 45 pound "wheels" on each side, you're at 135 pounds. Two wheels is 225 pounds. Three wheels is 315 pounds. But, the lift at 305 was hard enough that I didn't want to try another rep on Friday. I'll save the 3 wheel attempt for this Friday.

Saturday and Sunday were ski days. The skiing was OK this weekend, but not great. The terrain is still limited and there was typical eastern ice all over the place. I led a training clinic for other instructors for two days. The first day, we focused on logistics of the skiing program where I teach. We have the same children every Saturday and Sunday for four months, and there's a lot to know about safety, group handling, and just how to time the day to make it enjoyable for the children.

In the afternoon, I taught some things to the group that are useful to get the children - most of whom are solid skiers - back into skiing as the season starts. We're all rusty to start the season, so an early goal is to make sure people are not falling into bad habits, and to reinforce some basic skiing movements.

On Sunday, I turned the tables on the training group. I taught one more lesson appropriate to teaching the children early in the season. Then, I had each of the other instructors come up with a lesson and present it to the group. Most of the instructors in my training group were adults and more than half were experienced instructors, so this went pretty well.

My 15 year old son was also in my training group, and I was very impressed with how he handled his teaching assignment. Most of the 14 and 15 year old assistant coaches were in a lower level clinic, but my son handled a tough higher-level assignment very well. I had to ask him some "why" questions - why are we doing this, why do we go from this task to the next, etc. He answered them perfectly. My son can't teach on his own until next season, but if he sticks with it, he's going to be a great coach very quickly. He and I have joked for years that he's likely to get his level 3 PSIA certification before I do - if I ever get there.

This coming week will be more of the same. I'll lift three times, run three times, and ski twice. On Saturday, the children show up and we start our real teaching work for the season. I really love teaching skiing to children and I just love being on the mountain. My wife says that I smile more when I'm skiing than any other time or place. This season, I'll have an added bonus, because my 10 year old daughter is in my ski group - at her request. I'm really looking forward to spending that time with her this winter.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Treadmill run

I ran on the treadmill for about an hour last night. I was feeling pretty tired and didn't run nearly as hard as I had on Tuesday. Tonight will be lifting, focusing on deadlifts, and then I'll ski all weekend. Hopefully, the deadlifts won't leave me too tired to ski reasonably well tomorrow.

Next week, I'll run 3 days and lift 2, after lifting 3 and running 2 this week. I won't run more than 4 times per week until after the first of the year, and most weeks will be 3 runs totalling about 20 miles.

It looks like we're going to get a few inches of snow on Sunday and then a bigger storm on Tuesday. Regretfully, the Tuesday storm will start as snow but then change to rain. That's likely to increase the base depth of the snow, but after the wet snow freezes solid, it won't be good for snowshoeing. I'm really itching to get out on my snowshoes rather than running on the stupid treadmill.

There's not much else going on. It's my off-season, so my training isn't really goal-oriented, plus Christmas is approaching. I need to get a Christmas tree soon, but I've been too busy with work and skiing to even think about when I'll get around to that. Maybe tomorrow if the ski day ends early enough.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Bench Press PR?

Not quite.

I was doing my wave loading sets of bench presses and barbell rows last night. On the fourth set, a single rep at the highest weight for the workout, I decided to try 160#. I need to keep increasing the weight if I'm going to catch up to Pres-elect Obama and his 200# bench press. (Yeah, I know that bench pressing is not likely to help, and might even hurt my running. But, I'll back off on upper body strength stuff as running season really gets going. I talked to Nikki Kimball about this at WS last year, and after XC ski season, which really builds her arm muscles, she just backs off on arm training as running races get closer.)

I asked one of the doctors I work with to spot me on the one rep at 160 last night. He was in the midst of doing BP sets at 245 or so, so my 160 seemed pretty puny. I got about halfway up and I just kind of locked up. I was pushing and pushing, but the bar wasn't moving. Finally, my spotter put his hand on the bar and gave me just a little nudge. He said "All you", which is the most repeated lie in gyms around the world. I knew he'd helped me and I can't claim I did the lift myself. Next week maybe.

I did get a new PR on the barbell row, and then had some good sets of lat pulldowns and DB presses. After some lower body Russian twists, I was done.

Today's weather forecast is kind of nasty, so I'm going to have to find a way to get in a run. It's above freezing right now and the temperature is going up. It's also drizzling right now. Later, the drizzle will turn to rain, the temps will start to drop, and the rain will turn to sleet and then snow. Then, the roads will start freezing up. And, I'm working 60+ miles from home today.

I may leave work early before things start to freeze, run indoors in the late afternoon, and then work into the evening. Somehow, I'll get a run in, unless the weather really gets bad.

Tomorrow, I'm scheduled to have a day of skiing with the other trainers at the ski mountain, but I'm not sure I want to use a vacation day for another training day. So, I might work and then lift at night. This weekend, I'll be doing some training for other instructors who are my closest co-workers during the season.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

It's treadmill season

Given the current state of the roads and the trails here in VT, it's looking like treadmill season for a while.

The trails don't have quite enough snow for snowshoeing yet. And, the roads are icy on the edges. We are forecast to have a storm with mixed precip tomorrow and another early next week. These snow/sleet/freezing rain/rain events make the prospects of road running even dimmer in the near future. But, sometimes, the treadmill really isn't so bad. I can dial into a pace, turn on some tunes, and just "relax" for a while.

Last night, I did six miles on the treadmill. I started with 3 very easy miles, and then alternated faster quarters with slower quarters for the last 3 miles. I didn't go fast enough to call it an interval workout. It was more like tempo pace - just pushing the pace a little bit to see how I'd feel.

After Monday's squat workout and last night's run, I'm a bit sore this morning, but nothing like the soreness I had two weeks ago after the first time I did Monday night's weight workout.

Tonight is an upper body night at the gym. Until the first of the year, I will stick with a max of one workout per day, not lifting and running in the same day. Each workout will be an hour or less, unless it's a skiing day. But even on those days, the total amount of time at a high intensity isn't that much.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Another lifting PR

Last night, I set a squat PR by 5 pounds. In the last 8 days, I've also set a deadlift PR by 30 pounds and a bench press PR by 20 pounds. Maybe I should give up this running stuff and become a powerlifter. Well, that's not gonna happen anytime soon. As much as I like lifting and skiing, there's still nothing more fun that running effortlessly through the mountains when I'm in good shape.

So, after a week of the Precision Nutrition Lean Eating Program, my weight has gone up a pound. I think the damage was all done on Thanksgiving Day, to be honest. Otherwise, I'm doing my daily homework and absorbing the information that they are giving to us. I'm working to change habits on a daily basis - making one good decision at a time.

Doing some measurements and photos was a bit sobering. I've really let some fat creep back onto this body since WS was cancelled. I probably did it mostly with beer and margaritas, and that's a habit that I've changed already.

I know I've said this before, but I am not someone who can "out-train" a bad diet. If I let up in either category - diet or training - my weight will start to creep up. With under 7 months until Western States, and only one month until I start my real training for that race, it's time to improve my habits right now. Being hyper-focused on these things during the holiday season may be a bit difficult, but it's better than the alternative weight gain.

Oh yeah, after my squat PR last night, the next guy to use the squat rack built his way up to a 455# squat. My new PR seemed silly in comparison.

Monday, December 1, 2008

It's a good sore

What an amazing weekend of skiing. It was hard to believe that it was still November on the mountain. Saturday morning, we started with some indoor training. I've met the presenter before when he coached my son for a weekend of skiing and found him very likable then. This weekend, he came across as being somewhat arrogant and I don't think his presentation had the expected impact on our employees.

After the presentation, we were all happy to head outside to ski. For most of the weekend, I was assigned to train with a top-notch trainer. Let's call her Barb. Barb is an examiner for PSIA, the professional organization for skiers in the US. There are 3 levels of certification, and I'm at level 2 currently, hoping to take my level 3 exams someday. Barb was one of my examiners for my Level 2 skiing exam. I've also taken PSIA clinics with her at mountains other than where I teach.

Essentially, an examiner is someone who has gone way past level 3. After getting to level 3, an instructor can try out for the "dev team". If you make the dev (for development) team, you are then on track to become an examiner. But, before you can become an examiner, a dev team member spends lots of time as an understudy at clinics and exams. Eventually, a dev team member can be "promoted" to the examiner level. But even then, the person has to wait for an examiner vacancy to occur. Barb has been an examiner for many years. Her children are very talented racers. She is an amazing skier who skis hard from the first chair to the last chair.

Because I may take an exam with Barb in the future, I really focus when I train with her. I try to make sure I show no signs of weakness, such as calling it a day before the last chair because I'm tired. Barb knows what I do in the summers and she is a big fan of ultra-endurance sports, so she expects that I can ski hard all day, even at the beginning of the season.

This weekend, I thought she was going to kill me.

Our group had 8 people to start on Saturday. We skied a few easy runs before lunch. After lunch, we moved to the top of the mountain and started skiing much harder terrain. We mixed in low-level training topics on easier runs, and then we'd do a hard run. About 2:30, people started to get tired. It's a subtle thing that happens in your skiing as you get tired, but it's something I constantly look for in the guests that I teach. Basically, balance is a very dynamic part of skiing. Balance occurs not only in the 3 dimensions of physical space, but also in the dimension of time. A good skier is constantly making micro-adjustments of all types to remain in good balance. If you are constantly in balance, you are ready to adapt to an unexpected situation. If you are out of balance and hit a bump the wrong way or you encounter some ice, bad things can happen.

When skiers start to get tired, they start to get lazy about those micro-adjustments. They tend to just "go with the flow", assuming they are good enough to handle what will happen, as it happens. That attitude leads to falls and potentially to injuries.

On Saturday afternoon, bit by bit, skiers in our group were acknowledging that they were tired. They started to call it a day. Barb was mostly done teaching for the day, so we just started skiing - fast and on tough terrain. I watched one member of our group take a tough fall on a double-black diamond run. He was getting tired/lazy and couldn't recover from a tough situation. I followed him down the rest of that run to make sure he was safe. He called it a day. Suddenly, there were only 3 of us - an amazingly good freestyle skiing coach, Barb, and me. I was suddenly the worst skier in the group, just trying to hang on. We caught a chair at 3:59, skied a beautiful single-black diamond bump run on natural snow, and we were done. I'd survive day one. I was exhausted.

As soon as I was changed, I got some food and water. My ski school buddies all headed to the pub for a few beers, but I knew I had another tough day ahead of me, so I resisted the urge and headed home.

Sunday started with an hour indoors. After that, I led a couple of 75 minute clinics on skiing safely in gladed terrain. After lunch, I met up with Barb again. Two people from Saturday had apparently had enough and they didn't return. We warmed up on a double-black diamond slope. Then, a second warm-up run on an icy single black. Then, we spent some time on intermediate terrain, talking about edging movements and pressure movements, and how to teach those movements to low level skiers. Then, we did some higher level tasks where we watched each other ski and then worked on drills to improve our own skiing.

By 3:00, Barb was done with the instruction part of the day. People were free to leave for the day or to ski with her. Well, I wasn't really free to leave. With most people, she'd ask if they wanted to ski more. With me, it was "I know Damon's up for some more." So, I skied. We started doing laps on a double-black diamond bump run. I fell once. I was getting tired and lazy, and I started to skip some of those micro-adjustments to my balance. The chair to the summit closes at 3:45. We were hurrying down, trying to get in one more run. Secretly, I was hoping we'd be too late. Barb made it down in time, but a couple of us just missed the chair. Barb was disappointed, but reminded us that the chair at the base ran until 4:00. We raced to the bottom to get one more chair ride. Thankfully, we took an intermediate route down. My skiing was getting very sloppy by this point in time. But, I survived the last run and made it safely to the locker room.

I met my wife and kids in the bar at the base. My wife was happily enjoying some expensive Chardonnay. She asked what I wanted. Water. More water. I just wanted to re-hydrate and head home for some food. By 8:15 last night, I was asleep.

This morning, I had to get up at 5:30 to clear some new snow from the driveway. I hurt everywhere. My hands are sore from doing pole plants all weekend. It hurt to hold the controls of the snow blower.

Tonight I'll go to the gym. It will be a tough workout because I'm so sore.

But, it's a good sore. I love skiing.